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Victoria offers relief to businesses hit by snap lockdown

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Victorian small businesses could be eligible for up to $143 million in support to compensate for stock losses and cancellations caused by the sudden five-day closure of businesses last weekend.

The package, which will be open to about 50,000 Victorian businesses, comes after wide-ranging criticism about the lack of warning of the shutdown ahead of Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year which left florists and restaurants holding unusable stock.

The lockdown was caused by a breach of hotel quarantine at the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport, which grew rapidly and included two infected airport workers. The breach now seems to be under control with Victoria recording the second day of zero community transmission.

Jobs Minister Martin Pakula said the Circuit Breaker Support Package was targeted at “restaurants, florists, confectioners, hairdressers, accommodation providers, musicians, and performers – who incurred costs such as the loss of perishable goods, cancelled gigs, and foregone trading”.

“They are the businesses that were most profoundly affected by that lockdown and they are the businesses that we are primarily targeting in this support,” Mr. Pakula said.

The package was negotiated with industry groups and the targeted approach was welcomed by the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

VECCI chief Paul Guerra described the amount of support as “enough”.

“It’s not so much about the money. It’s about certainty. How do we make sure that we continue to trade into the future so that we don’t have another snap lockdown like we had last Friday,” Mr. Guerra said.

The chief executive of the Australian Retailers Association, Paul Zahra, said the package would not compensate for all the business losses.

Grants and vouchers

“The recent Victorian lockdown is expected to have cost retailers of both goods and services more than $1 billion in lost revenue, so while the additional support for business is welcome, it won’t offset the significant losses they incurred,” Mr Zahra said.

The package includes a $92 million program that offers businesses in hospitality, food wholesaling, tourism, events and selected retail industries $2000 grants. Businesses with an annual payroll of up to $3 million will be eligible.

A $24.9 million injection to the Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund will give 7500 previous recipients of this grant an automatic one-off $3000 per premises payment.

Accommodation providers who had 10 or fewer cancellations can apply for $2250 per business, while those with more than 10 booking cancellations can apply for $4500.

A $10 million expansion of the Regional Travel Voucher Scheme will also offer 40,000 vouchers worth $200 each for travel in greater Melbourne, and an additional 10,000 vouchers to support travel in regional Victoria.

More than $6 billion in business support has been provided by the state government for firms and sole traders affected by the state’s three lockdowns, funded from a $24.5 billion loan facility.

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